New rules for travelling in Europe

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With international travel restrictions being eased, many people are getting ready to visit family members abroad or take a well earned foreign holiday. Although, it’s fair to say destinations are limited at the moment!

Following our departure from the European Union there are new rules for travelling in Europe. The changes relate to passports, health insurance, pet travel, driving and ID cards. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has issued guidance on the changes which we have summarised.


The key message for passports is start your application now if you need to renew. The passport office (HMPO) is expecting big demand over the coming months. We covered this in more detail in a recent article on passports, including links to the relevant GOV.UK passport pages.

Health Insurance

Residents in the UK can now apply for the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which will gradually replace the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Your current EHIC card will be valid for travel to Europe until it expires. You can then apply for a new GHIC card which will cover you in the same way.

Any resident of the UK can apply for a GHIC. Entitlement is not based on nationality. Access to NHS services including GHIC’s is not determined by national insurance contributions or taxes paid but on residency in the UK. If you’re resident in the UK and not insured by an EU country or Iceland, Norway, Switzerland or Liechtenstein you should be considered insured by the UK and will be entitled to a GHIC.

Every family member including all children will need their own GHIC card. 

The GHIC can be used to access healthcare from state services operated by the country you are visiting. It covers healthcare which becomes medically necessary during your visit and cannot wait until you return to the UK. The most common reasons are:

  • Visits to A & E and emergency treatment.
  • Kidney dialysis (pre-arranged treatment)
  • Routine maternity care as long as you are not travelling abroad to give birth.
  • Routine medical care for pre-existing medical conditions that need monitoring.

It’s important to check that any pre-arranged treatment is not booked with a private healthcare provider as this will not be covered by your GHIC. If you become ill whilst travelling then your GHIC will cover you at your destination. GHIC’s will not cover you in Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland.

The Government advise that everyone travelling abroad takes out comprehensive and appropriate travel insurance for their visit. A GHIC will cover you for emergencies but would not cover you for events such as mountain rescue or similar services provided by private operators. It would also not cover you for being flown home if that was necessary for medical reasons.

All the information you need can be found on NHS/GHIC

Pet travel

New rules have been brought in regarding pet travel to Europe and includes travel to Northern Ireland. The pet passport scheme is coming to an end and new rules will be in place and you should contact your vet one month before your departure date.  In order to travel your pet will need:

  • A microchip
  • A rabies vaccination
  • An animal Health certificate
  • Tapeworm treatment (for travel to Northern and Southern Ireland, Finland, Norway or Malta).

These rules apply to assistance dogs as well.

All the relevant information including how to apply for the necessary paperwork can be found on GOV.UK/pet-travel

Driving in Europe

If you intend to take your car to drive in Europe you should be aware of what you need to do:

  • Carry your licence with you at all times. You may need an international Driving Permit for some countries and these are available over the counter at Post Office branches.
  • You will need a ‘Green card’ as proof of motor insurance and must have it with you when you drive abroad.
  • You should carry your vehicle log book (V5C) if you are travelling for less than 12 months.
  • You must display a GB sticker at the rear of your vehicle if your number plate has a Euro symbol, a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales and numbers or letters only. For Spain, Malta and Cyprus you must display a GB sticker whatever is on your number plate.

All relevant details and information on driving in Europe can be found on GOV.UK/driving-in-the-EU

ID cards

EU and swiss nationals can travel to the UK with a valid passport or a National Identity card at the moment. From October 2021 ID cards will no longer be accepted for entry into the UK. A recent statement from the Home Office states:

The Government’s ambition is to build back a safer, fairer and more prosperous UK, as part of this, we are phasing out the use of National Identity (ID) cards.

This means that from the 1 October 2021, most EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will need to use a valid passport to travel to the UK.

ID cards will no longer be accepted as a valid travel document and it will not be possible to enter the UK using them.

This will not apply EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021 or otherwise have protected rights under the Citizens’ Rights Agreements.

This will also not apply to Gibraltar ID cards issued to British citizens or to Irish passport cards which may continue to be used for travel to the UK.”

Find out more on GOV.UK


It has to be said that the changes and new rules are not a lot different from what we have been used to. However, it’s important to understand all the changes related to your travel and apply for passports and permits as soon as you need to. All relevant information on all aspects of travel can be found on GOV.UK/travelling-abroad

Posted by Graham Morley

Graham is the Business Development Manager for Compare Holiday Money.

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